The Whiskey Pirates have once again dropped an excellent electronic badge for DEF CON 29. This is, of course, unofficial, but certainly makes the list of the hottest custom bling seen so far this year.

I’m not able to make it to the con in person, but the Pirates sent over one of these badges anyway for an early look. It’s gorgeous, and peering into the circuit board it would be easy to think that the chip shortage ain’t got nothin’ on #badgelife. But this was possible only because of some very creative parts sourcing, and a huge dose of inspired design work.

The Aesthetic

I usually begin with an overview of the hardware, but come on, this thing looks spectacular! Let’s talk about the aesthetic. This is one of the more polished looks for a hardware badge, akin to the Queercon 15 badge which used PCB faceplate and back, separated by edge-lit acrylic. [TrueControl] sandwiched the PCB between two sheets of acrylic, one that serves as a faceplate with both etched and translucent areas, and a clear backplate that carries the side-firing RGB LEDs to where they can be seen.

At the end of each of the cross-bones there is a black rectangle. At first I thought these were some kind of IR reflectance sensor, but they’re actually button caps. It looks like they’ve been cut out of acrylic of a thickness sized perfectly to be flat with the faceplate. They been superglued to the momentary push switches on the board.

The look of these caps is awesome. The function is a bit rough though, as the throw of the switch is very shallow. I did accidentally pop one of these off, probably by pressing too much on one end. A dab of glue has fixed it right back up.

An OLED display shines through the forehead of the faceplate. The badge acts as a nametag which can be customized from the menu. One of the nice touches is that [TrueControl] once again used his fancy firmware trick that tilts the letters of your name to match the angle of the badge. Pretty slick!

Tearing Down the Hardware

You have to be ambitious to get a good look at the populated board since it’s normally covered by an acrylic plate and the AAA battery holder. After desoldering that and removing the Torx head screws we are left with a really beautifully assembled board.

We find some creative part sourcing at work here. The main chip is a GigaDevices GD32VF103 (PDF datasheet) which is a RISC-V core (not to be confused with the GD32F103 which is an ARM Cortex-M3). [TrueControl] speculates…

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